Xiaolong Wei Receives Dan E. Wells Outstanding Dissertation Award

Award Recognizes Significance and Impact of Research

Each semester, the Dan E. Wells Outstanding Dissertation Award is presented to a graduating doctoral student who has performed outstanding research and submitted the best dissertation to the College. The Summer-Fall 2022 recipient was Xiaolong Wei, a geophysics Ph.D. graduate in the Department of Earth & Atmospheric Sciences.

Xiaolong Wei with Dean Dan Wells
Dan E. Wells Outstanding Dissertation Award winner Xiaolong Wei with Dean Dan Wells.

The award was announced at the University of Houston Commencement for the College of Natural Sciences and Mathematics on December 17. Wei received a certificate and an award of $1,000.

His dissertation is titled “Uncertainty Quantification in Geophysical Inversion and Geological Differentiation.” His work was conducted under the supervision of Jiajia Sun, assistant professor of geophysics.

Wei’s dissertation topic is the creation of new tools for discovering critical mineral resources needed for batteries, solar panels and other key technologies for sustainable energy. These tools address the computational challenges of creating three-dimensional images of subsurface geological composition from aerial magnetic and gravitational surveys. These tools help practitioners to evaluate the reliability of the three-dimensional images, providing important information for decision making.

The use of these tools has already enabled the discovery and mining of new deposits of these critical minerals, and the techniques are readily applicable to other geoscientific studies such as the imaging of volcano structure.

After graduation, Wei will be doing postdoctoral research at Stanford University.

For the award, nominated dissertations are evaluated for:

  • Significance and impact of the research
  • Originality of the work
  • Quality of the scholarship
  • Quality of the presentation and organization of the dissertation

- Kathy Major, College of Natural Sciences and Mathematics